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Canada’s “Globe and Mail” on LOTR and Harry Potter.

August 17, 2001 at 6:00 pm by Tehanu  - 

The “Globe and Mail” takes a contrary position to the other media who’ve been wooing Xoanon and getting excited about the LOTR films. In their editorial they argue that by seeing the movies, our imaginations will be colonised by somebody else’s vision, and we will be powerless to draw on our own powers of invention.

Editorial: “Anyone who has read these books carries the author’s vision around in his head forever.

“Except it isn’t really the author’s any more. It is the special magic of the printed page that everyone sees the books differently in his or her mind. When we look at a motion picture, we all see more or less the same thing. When we read a book, we all see something different. That vision is uniquely ours because we have helped create it, and that makes it a treasure.

“When a director makes a film of a book, he shows us just one vision: his. That is his right, of course, but it is not the same. No matter how brilliant his own vision may be, it can never be as vivid as the world the reader creates for himself.

“In that sense, making a movie of books such as The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a kind of crime against the imagination.”
[More]

We’ve seen this discussed on our messageboards a dozen times, and it’s an interesting debate. I’d like to counter the G&M’s editorial with a quote from the foreword to Ursula Le Guin’s latest book, “Tales from Earthsea.” In it she talks about the power of power of the imagination to overcome commercialisation, but I think it would equally apply to the power of the imagination to resist conformity. By this argument, even if the LOTR films cheapened the books outrageously, they wouldn’t kill off our own individual ability to dream.

“…people turn to the realms of fantasy for stablity, ancient truths, immutable simplicities. And the mills of capitalism provide them…

“Commodified fantasy takes no risks: it invents nothing, but imitates and trivialises…The passionately conceived ideas of the grreat story-tellers are copied, stereotyped, reduced to toyes, molded in bright-colored plastic, advertised, sold, broken, junked, replaceable, interchangeable.

“What the commodifiers of fantasy count on and exploit is the insuperable imagination of the reader, child or adult, which gives even these dead things life – of a sort, for a while.

“Imagination like all living things lives NOW, and it lives with, from, on true change. Like all we do and have, it can be co-opted and degraded; but it survives commercial and didactic exploitation. the land outlasts the empires. The conquerors may leave desert where there was forest and meadow, but the rain will fall, the rivers will run to hte sea. The unstable, mutable, untruthful realms of Once-upon-a-time are as much a part of human history and thought as the nations in our kaleidoscopic atlases, and some are more enduring.”

Myself, I would argue against the idea that another person’s vision could never be as rich and intense as my own when I read the books. Already I’ve seen things in the movies that are beyond what I could have imagined. Of course 200 or 300 creative people working together are going to out-do me for imagination, and I’m all the happier for it.

Posted in Old Special Reports on August 17, 2001 by

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